Civil servants offered double to retire

By MANQOBA NXUMALO on November 24,2010

Swazi Times

MANZINI- In a bid to reduce the country’s huge wage bill, government has offered to double the exit packages of civil servants who will agree to voluntarily leave the civil service.

Government has set aside a total of E213 million to lure public servants to retire voluntarily under the Enhanced Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme (EVERS) package. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have repeatedly complained that government had a huge wage bill and this was compromising the economy. It currently stands at about E330m per month.

A document that was given to the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) states that government intends to reduce the public service by seven per cent and that anyone who wants to leave the public service will be offered double his pension and pay no penalty.

This offer however does not apply to nurses, security officers, and teachers because government will not replace those who will go.

Currently, if you want to retire before the age of 60 years there is a large amount that one is offered by government. SNAT Secretary General Muzi Mhlanga reported to the principals that government had made an offer that, for example, a cleaner who would retire before 60 years and would get a pension of E45 000 would now be entitled to E90 000 as encouragement to go home. The penalty for retiring before your pension would also be removed. He said this was contained in the new enhanced exit offer. Previously, Mhlanga reported that those with an annual income of E45 000 would have gone home with E18 000 after the penalty and tax.

However, SNAT President Sibongile Mazibuko advised principals not to rush this offer because no circular had been issued save for a letter written by government with no letterhead and signature. She said for that reason there was nothing that would legally bind government in the event that one finds that the offer was not as lucrative as it is being promised.

During a consultative meeting with principals it came out that this offer was too good to be true hence principals were cautioned to trend cautiously.

Schools to charge same fee next year

MANZINI- Government has told teachers that it wants to implement the standardisation of fees next year in high schools next academic year.

Yesterday teachers under the banner of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) met with principals from all over the country where the matter was discussed at length.

SNAT President, Sibongile Mazibuko, said they were informed that government would implement this policy next year.

During the meeting it was reported that government was keen on getting teachers’ support on its move to have all schools in the country charging one fee.

The rationale, it was gathered, is that it wants to make education more accessible and reduce what it considers to be exorbitant fees.

However, the about 60 principals who attended the meeting were not entirely happy with the standardisation of fees and argued that government should rather make sure that by the time this policy is enforced schools should generally be the same in terms of curriculum, infrastructure and many other things.

Making an example, Mazibuko said as a previous teacher at St Mark’s High School she knew that they had about six science laboratories and several swimming pools and said the cost of maintenance, for example, would not be the same as a school without a pool and a laboratory.

Former SNAT Secretary General and St Mark’s principal Dominic Nxumalo argued during the meeting that schools had different needs therefore cannot have the same fees.

"I see that government is forging ahead demanding that fees be standardised and my question is, will it pump in the money? Also, before this is introduced government should ensure that schools are developed at the same level with regards to infrastructure and curriculum," said Nxumalo during the consultative meeting.

Quality

Nxumalo said it seemed that government was politicising education at the expense of quality education.

He argued, for example, that this was government’s ploy to be seen as delivering yet this had dire effects on the pupils.

Another principal suggested that if the standardisation has to go ahead then the highest charging school figure should be used as a benchmark.

Amos Vilakati during the meeting said the standardisation of fees at primary level needed to be reviewed because it was now unworkable.

"Government when starting this Free Primary Education (FPE) benchmarked E560 as the fee to be paid in Grade I and II. However, in this fee there is no building fund, no sports fees, feeding fees and other side fees. The question then becomes; how are we to pay the other fees. Also, government should rather make a pilot project and choose a few high schools and see if this is workable before implementing it across the country," Vilakati submitted.

In the end, SNAT Secretary General Muzi Mhlanga said they would design a form and collect data on the annual expenses of each school so that whatever figure that they finally give to government  can be backed by solid arguments.

...govt also offers to pay off car loans

MANZINI- Minister of Public Service Mtiti Fakudze has promised civil servants that the new exit package was very attractive.

Fakudze said they wanted to lure civil servants to exit before they reach the age of 60 years and would not even charge them the penalty that is currently charged.

He confirmed also that they will double their exit packages as well as pay off their car loans for those who are still repaying them.

He said some civil servants had bought cars and government would pay its end of the bargain in such loans and only leave the personal debt to be settled with the different banks.

Fakudze said they were working on the circular as they wanted to publish it on a government gazette so that it becomes a legal document.

"We are currently consulting with the Attorney General’s office and we want to have this gazette finished soon," Fakudze said when called yesterday.